Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Share Your Story : Erin

It's Share Your Story day! Our next story comes from a beautiful and strong young woman who has been my friend for many years.  Erin is full of love - for God and for others, is a strong woman of faith and someone that I truly look up to.  She is never to busy too sit and listen and is patient with every word.  We have laughed and laughed together, cried together and have had so many funny and memorable moments together.  I can't wait for you guys to meet her!

Tell us a little about yourself!   My name is Erin, I am 23 years old and If I could choose one word to describe my life right now it would be simple. God has blessed me with a season in my life of learning and growing in Him. I am the third of four children to my wonderfully amazing parents, Nick & Sue. I have one beautiful older sister, two amazing brothers (one older, Mark & one younger, Noah) and a great brother-in-law (Mike). In addition to that I have a beautiful, smart 3 ½ year old niece and a handsome, charming nephew who is 1 ½. I am blessed beyond measure. Some of my favorite things to do include studying God’s word, spending time with my family and friends, traveling, restoring furniture and general craftiness. My ideal vacation would be to travel to Alaska and spend a week in constant sunshine! I graduated in 2010 from the College at Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC and currently work at a small boutique back home. I have no idea what God has in-store for my future but I do know that every day I learn to trust Him more and more and whatever it may be my most important job in life is bringing glory to His name.

When was your first encounter with God and how did you become a Christian? -  I was 4 years old when I accepted Christ. It was a young age but I remember it like it was yesterday, sitting at the kitchen table. I am so blessed to have grown up in a home where Christ was the center of all we did and in that moment sitting there I knew, it just made sense to me. I am so glad that God has continued to be so real in my life. The most influential people in my salvation was my family. I was raised in a home where Christ comes first and all else comes second. It is amazing the influence of just watching someone live a genuine life and practicing what they preach- in my case this was my parents. To this day they will continue to play the biggest role in my Christian life of mentoring and encouraging me.

Have you experienced a time of confusion or uncertainty in regards to your life or even faith? -
In my short 23 years on earth I have been blessed beyond
measure. The Lord has provided in ways I never dreamed possible- and for that I am eternally grateful. But that does not mean that it has been a life empty of struggle. In the midst of all of these lavish blessings the Lord has given me I have allowed anxiety and fear to creep in. From a very young age I can recall struggling with anxiety and as much as I would like to tell you it is something I grew out of as I got older- it is not. Throughout the years I have found that change is not something I adjust to well. One of the most difficult changes in my life has been the transition from college to adulthood. I struggled with finding my purpose in life and little by little the anxiety crept in until before I knew it I had allowed it to cripple me. I spent countless nights crying and thinking what now God? I watched as so many of my friends moved away to start new adventures - others were engaged and getting married and some starting new exciting careers. As excited as I was for them I felt as though the Lord had forgotten me- I prayed over and over again “Lord, here I am send me!”. But no matter how hard, long, fast or loud I prayed it felt as though the Lord was telling me that I was where he wanted me and that he wanted to use me- where I was. I begin to seek Him more diligently than ever before in my life and to my surprise- He began opening doors for me where I never thought possible. Even as I sit here and type this it brings a tear to my eye just to think how hard it must have been for a Father watch His child wander aimlessly as he patiently called out to me over and over again. As I began to study more and more of His word and His promises to His children I learned to trust Him more and more and I realized the more I trusted Him, the less I worried.

What did God teach you through this time of struggle? - How amazing is our God that even in the midst of tragedy and chaos He is still constant. One of my favorite things about the Lord is how He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Looking back now I can see how He was with me through all of my struggles- guiding me even when I felt as though I was wondering in the darkness and I am so thankful. He taught me so much about myself during this opportunity; one of the biggest things I have learned is that I am created in the image of God. He made me with a purpose and He can use me just as I am. My relationship with Him has grown so much- I am humbled more and more each day as I learn more about Him and who He has created me to be.  

Do you have any advice for someone going through a similar situation/circumstance? - As cliché as it sounds remember, “ if He brings you to it He will bring you through it”. You are created in the image and deeply loved by the King, the creator of the heavens and the earth. I so often have to remind myself that His love for His children is so deep that He sent His one and only son to live a perfect life, die on the cross and rise again after three days to pay for our sin so His children could spend eternity with Him- no greater love is there than this so why would I think he would bring me to these struggles in my life and abandon me? My biggest piece of advice would be to pray without ceasing- He hears your prayers.

Tell us about one of your most favorite memories or events in your life! - I would have to say that one of the most memorable events in my life would be my first international mission trip. I was a senior in high school and the Lord made a way for me to travel to Nairobi, Kenya with my church. To this day I still remember it all- the people, the sounds, the smells and everything else. As we drove from the airport to conference center I watched as we drove through little towns that had poverty and sickness like nothing I had ever seen before.  Throughout that week we met people from all different walks of life and we experienced things that were new and different. God taught me so much on this trip and opened my eyes to this great world He has created.

What did God teach you through this awesome experience? God taught me so much on my trip to Kenya. I will never forget the sound as hundreds of missionaries from all over sang Blessed Be the Name of the Lord. People just like you, just like me who had given everything to take up their crosses and follow Him. They had uprooted their children, left behind parents, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles to follow Him wherever he may lead. God did not wait for me to arrive in Kenya- He started preparing my heart weeks and months before. We spent many hours reading, studying and preparing to go and in doing so I know that made the being there that much better. After returning from Kenya God continued to use that trip to work in my life. I had seen things that were foreign from anything I had ever experienced here at home and my heart would be forever changed from that point forward.

Do you have any spiritual role models in your life?- Every day we are influenced by the world. Some for the better, some for the worse. The people that you surround yourself with play such an important role in who you are. God has created us all different, we have all journeyed down different paths to get us to where we are and I count myself so blessed to have been influenced by so many great women in my lifetime. It is such an important thing to have mentors and role models that will encourage you and teach you along the way.  It is hard to pick just a few- My sweet mother (Sue) and sister (Sarah) have played such a huge role in my life of showing me what a Godly wife and mother looks like. These are two of the most sincere and God fearing women I have ever met in my lifetime. They have shown me what it means to put self last and others first and to daily seek Christ, Living a life that is pure and genuine. Over the 23 years of my life they have cried with me, laughed with me, prayed for me and encouraged me to seek Christ first in everything. They have truly shown me unconditional love that no amount of words on a page could ever fully describe.  There are two other very special women that come to mind when I think about who I am today. Both Megan and Lauren have taught me so much about what it means to seek, follow and serve the Lord. I was in 9th Grade when I met Megan and immediately we bonded. Her genuine care for people and love for the Lord encouraged me to continue serving the Lord and be obedient to His calling. When I went away to college I was so blessed to meet sweet Lauren, I remember walking into that D-group classroom panicking that I would not know anyone- little did I know that Lauren would become such a big part of my life from that day on. Encouraging me as I adjusted to life outside of high school and helping me to deepen my faith daily and continue to build my faith on a firm foundation. Such strong women devoted to studying and learning God and His doctrine. I am so thankful that He has blessed me with these great spiritual mentors who have become more than just that, they have become family to me.

What would be the one piece of advice you would give other young women? -If I could leave you with one piece of advice it would be this: The world will try so hard to tell you who you are or who you need to be. They will tell you what you need to have, the clothes you need to wear, the music you need to listen to and everything in-between. But know this: your true identity is hidden in Christ. Seek the Lord and who He has created you to be- rather than allowing the world to tell you who you are show the world who Christ has created you to be and in doing so you will show the lost and dying world the love of Christ. 

What is your favorite verse/verses? - They are all so good! It is hard to pick just a few. Some of my most favorite verses of scripture include: Psalms 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I particularly like this one for what God has used it to teach me over the past 2 years. It is funny how one word can change your whole perspective. I feel like I was able to find the true meaning of Delight when I fully understood that this verse says “and he will give you the desires of your heart” as opposed to “so he will give you the desires of your heart.” In understanding this it is funny to see how quickly the desires of your heart change when you are truly delighting yourself in the Lord, such a powerful word….delight.  Another one of my favorite verses is Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Being someone who has struggled with anxiety for so long I love this verse for how it empowers me to find my strength and courage in the Lord and not me. Such an encouraging verse.  James 1:6 “but let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” Hmm.. this convicts me to the core! So true!< Isaiah 26:4 “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” He is everlasting- the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I am so thankful and humbled by His greatness. I am so in awe.  Micah 7:7 “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be light to me.”  These are just a few of my most favorite verses. Verses that have comforted me many a times. There is such power in the word of the Lord. 

Wow, Erin is such a blessing and I'm so thankful for her sharing with us today.  I know that God has so many wonderful things in store for her.  Thanks so much Erin for sharing your story!!

Tune in every Wednesday for a new story!  If you would like to participate and Share Your Story, send me an email, I'd love to chat with you.

Secret Blogger Swap Reveal

Recently I participated in a Secret Blogger Swap hosted by Danielle at Framed Frosting.  What a sweet idea right?  I was so excited when I received a package from the lovely Devon at The Jack Chronicles.  I loved checking her blog out - it's so sweet and she has the cutest little boy!  So I opened my package and pulled out this beautiful bag - don't you just want to know what was inside?

I love this beautiful scarf from powder!  I'm a huge scarf fan, this was such a thoughtful gift.

I think this is the cutest spatula I have ever seen.  I can't wait to make lots of chocolate treats with this.

Thanks so much Devon for such a beautiful gift!  You are too sweet.  Make sure you guys check out her wonderful blog The Jack Chronicles!

Also, everyone who participated in the secret blogger swap is linking up today with our host Framed Frosting, so go take a peek and find some new great blogs!! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Painting The Exterior

I have been looking forward to this day since we moved in a little over a year ago, the big painting day.  Over the weekend we finally got the courage up and decided to make the big color choice decision and get started with painting our house exterior.  We are doing it all by ourselves (with some help from some wonderful friends and family) and boy is this a tedious task.  I knew this was not a small project but the time it is going to take to complete is huge. Our goal over the weekend was to complete one wall and we just about did (just a few little edges to fill in).  We absolutely love the result and I can't wait to show you!  But, before we can get there we have to share with you which color we chose and what we did to get ready for this big project.

Ok, so when we left off we had three color choices that we were looking at.  After weeks and weeks of looking at them we just weren't sold.  So off to Home Depot I went to grab a few more options and here is what we had:

From the beginning I really wanted a sage green color, then thought I wanted something dark or charcoal and in the end I think we chose something right in between...

We love it so much.  It's gray, green, even a little blue.  It's dark but not too dark and even hints at charcoal.  It's the perfect color choice for us.  In case you are wondering the color is called Valley Hills by Behr.  We also chose a creamy white, a darker color for the foundation and a new door color...those you will have to wait on.

The back of the house was our goal for the weekend but before we could even get painting we had a lot of prep work to do.  We needed a clean surface and after a little trial and error we finally found a good mix of tools that worked.  Like I said before, we have great family and friends that are helping us along the way - letting us borrow ladders, power washers, tools, etc.  They have saved us a ton of money and we are so thankful. We have two different sidings on our house (because of a later addition) so the power washer worked wonders on one siding but not the other.  But, a nice soaking of bleach cleaner and a little water from the hose and the rest cleaned up nicely.  

We removed every storm window and shutter and found some rotted wood along the way.  You can see in the picture above the rotted out soffits and also a little white trim that we had started (we just couldn't help it, we had to do a little painting to start with).

So say goodbye to the ugly outdated paint colors that once adorned our little house.  I'm not one bit sad to see it go.  

I feel like I have so much to share about this project, so get ready for an onslaught of painting exterior posts.  Tomorrow though, we have another Share Your Story and also I will be posting about my secret blogger swap that I participated in.  So, lots going on!!  Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Share Your Story : Caroline

I'm so excited to start our new series today - Share Your Story!!!  If you missed it, check out my first post on what Share Your Story is all about as well as our page - here - I will be updating the page each week with each new story!

So to start us off is a beautiful young woman named Caroline.  Caroline is a Junior in High School and has wisdom beyond her years.  I have had the privilege of getting to know her over the last couple of years and have been blessed to have seen her mature and grow in her faith.  She is a loving, devoted and faithful friend to so many.  She is a talented musician and is working on becoming Drum Major of her high school band next year.  I think one of the things I admire most about her is her servants heart.  She is always first to help, reach out and humbly work behind the scenes.  I just love that about her.  Caroline is here to share her story of faith with us today and really has some beautiful words to give to young women who might be going through a season of drought.  So let's meet Caroline!!

Hey, I'm Caroline! I was born in North Carolina 17 years ago into a loving Christian family with both parents and my older brother, who is 3 years older than me. When I was 4 years old, my dad got a job promotion that required moving, so our family followed. We found a new church home within a year or so of moving.

When did you first experience God and become a Christian? - In this church, I grew up and began to learn about God, but didn't really know Him personally until G.A. camp at Camp Mundo Vista the summer before 6th grade. I can't tell you details of the very instant He became real to me, but I do know for certain that God showed up through His people. That week was the first time I'd ever experienced God as more than a distant deity who created the world so long ago. Instead, through witnessing girls whose lives had been greatly affected by the power of God, I was sure there was something more to the whole 'Christian' thing - and I wanted what they had. My brother, who had accepted Christ not long before, furthermore encouraged me when I returned home from that week, and I was baptized soon thereafter. I fully believe that I knew what I was doing when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, but the church environment around me did little to support me in my walk, so as far as 'living out my faith' - that really didn't occur until later in my Christian walk.

Have you ever walked through a season of drought or doubt in regards to your faith? -  Almost two years ago now, our church started having major leadership issues, which turned into a huge mess and break in the church. Once my brother graduated from high school, my family found it best to leave our church home in search of a new one. Honestly, at this point in time, the Enemy really led me to believe that I could be a Christian just as well without having a body of Believers to back me up. I don't think I can accurately explain just how messed up this idea is. I remember using quotes like "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than sitting in a garage makes you a car" to back-up my bitter feelings toward church-searching. I was perfectly content and comfortable with where I was at our old church: wasn't that enough? Wasn't God supposed to want my happiness? Couldn't I count on Him to keep me from hard times? After all, I'd already accepted Him - I was on His side - so why in the world would He take me out of the one place where I'd found a safe niche for myself? These are the questions that pushed me farther and farther away from God - the one and only Help in times of trouble.

How did God work in your life and teach you through this situation and bring you out of your season of doubt?  - This went on for several months before my friend Shelby invited me to her youth group one Wednesday night. She'd told me great things about their church, and I figured it wouldn't hurt to see what it was all about. From the first week I visited, I was so included and accepted by the youth group that I desperately wanted to go back each and every week. Christ's love, grace, and acceptance was so real in that place that I was just overwhelmed by His goodness. A couple months later at Disciple Now, I met some of my best friends, as they exemplified the love and joy of Christ through everything in their lives. It was then that I finally realized how God was powerful enough to bring me out of even the toughest of situations. He hadn't torn my safety net out from under me for no reason at all, but He wanted me to trust that He had a plan. He knew where I needed to be to flourish in my relationship with Him, and so He led me there. He knew what was best for me, so He put specific people in my life to keep me where I could grow to know Him so much more than I ever had. Looking back on this really hard time in my life, all I can do is praise God that He had a plan for my life, and that He STILL has one. He saw me through that valley, so I can trust that He will never leave me nor forsake me. Even as I am finishing up my junior year of high school and have very little idea of where I'm headed after I graduate, I can trust that God will reveal His plans for my life when the time is right.

Do you have any advice for other teenagers? Be involved with a youth group that loves the Lord. When you're surrounded by Believers who want to grow in their relationship with God, it only encourages you to do the same. Don't waste your years in middle school and high school - during these years you'll have the chance to make a difference in the lives of so many different people, and one thing is for certain: God doesn't make mistakes, nor does He do things by random. Because of this, I have confidence in saying that God puts certain people in your life with a specific purpose. Take advantage of that. Also, remember that your body is the Temple of God. Keep your thoughts and actions pure, and take care of yourself. No matter how short or tall, thick or thin, dark or light you are, you were made in the image of the one true God, and you are BEAUTIFUL!

What is your favorite bible verse? - Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. That's probably my favorite verse. It's something very applicable to my life in just about every season, because it's an incredible reminder that Jesus is the only constant in a world of change. It's so comforting to know that He will forever be good, fair, and altogether perfect.

Thanks so much Caroline for Sharing Your Story today and being our first!!!!  I am so thankful for your willingness to open up about your faith.  

Check back next Wednesday for a new story!

If you would like to be a part of this series we would love to here from you!  Email us!

Spread the word!!!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Few More Party Things

I'm continuing with our little party project theme today and sharing with you a few more diy party decorations that we did for my niece's sixteenth birthday.  Last week I showed you the signature board and table centerpiece I made from items I already had and dollar bin finds.  Today I'll let you know what I did with all of this ribbon (which I found either in the dollar bin at AC Moore or at the Dollar Store).  I know you just can't wait.

I tried to make things that my niece would want to use again and maybe even put up in her room.  It's tough to gain the approval of birthday decorations from a sixteen year old but I got a huge thumbs up from Ashleigh on these next two.  She actually got down right excited when she saw them, and I'm not even exaggerating.

These are both so easy and inexpensive.  The first little project was a ribbon garland.  I'm sure you've seen these all over pinterest and blogland.  I think they are so cute.  In order for this to work for my niece though it had to be a bit funky.  Ever since she has moved in with us she has talked about wanting a room painted lime green, orange and purple.  Even though we haven't busted out the paint brushes one this on yet I thought I'd give her some things in those colors to make her room more fun.

In addition to cutting my ribbon strips I also cut up a bandana to use with this as well.  All this took were my strips of ribbon, a piece of yarn and me tying the ribbon on the yarn.  Simple.  

So while I was making this, Justin thought that this was something I was making to actually leave in our kitchen for decoration - like all the time.  When I asked him what he thought he said, ummm, well it's a little kermit the frog, haha!  He kept asking me questions like, Where exactly are you putting this? and What exactly is this again?  I finally realized he wasn't getting that this was a birthday party project so when I filled him in he let out a huge sigh of relief, realizing that I hadn't gone all wacky and kermit the frog on him.  Although, Ashleigh thought this was the coolest thing ever and that was all that mattered.

Ok, next up is a little bandana wreath I made from a beaten up old wreath form from the Dollar Store, a bandana (that I just cut in strips) and a few felt flowers.

Just a little hot glue was all I needed.

I have a little tutorial on how to make felt flowers, don't worry they are easy and it involves no sewing!

For some reason, this is the best picture I took of the final wreath.  But, you get the idea.  I also used a little flower cut-out I made to finish it off and make it birthdayish.

Once again - I scored some cute lanterns at the Dollar Store in our perfect colors.  Always check there first!!!

I think I'm all partied out now between this and the Senior Salute event.  Don't forget to join us tomorrow for the first story in our new Share Your Story series!!!  Can't wait!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Senior Salute

Over the weekend, we had the privilege of honoring and recognizing a fantastic group of Seniors from our student ministry.  This weekend is always bitter sweet for us.  We have spent the last seven years getting to know this awesome group and it's hard to let them go.  We have cried with them, laughed with them, experienced God with them, worshipped with them, prayed with them and watched them grown into incredible young men and women of Christ.  Even though we will miss them being a part of our youth group, we are so excited to see how God works in their lives in the future!

Part of the festivities includes a lunch for all of the seniors and their families and friends.  The Junior class families always work so hard putting this event together.  Everything from wrapping gifts, decorating, setting up, serving the meal and clean up - they always make it a special day.  So, I wanted to share a few of the things we did, you know in case you have a graduation party looming in your near future.

The church always provides a gift for our graduating seniors but Justin and I like to leave them a little reminder of what they have learned while in youth group.  This year we focused a lot on being the light in the world and being the City on a hill: You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden -Matthew 5:14.  So, we got a little flashlight for each of them - the flashlights aren't anything fancy, just a little reminder.  We also wrote them a note of encouragement to continue shining their lights and being the City.

Thanks for letting me share a little bit of our weekend with you!  We've got the big Share Your Story series starting this Wednesday so make sure you check back in!!  Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

DIY Birthday Party Decorations

Today I'm going to share a couple of easy party decorations we did for our niece's birthday party over the weekend.  I did everything on a budget and raided every dollar bin I could find.  The first project I'm going to share though I used supplies I already had on hand as well as some that I bought.  I tried to make things that she could keep and even use to decorate her room if she wanted to.  Since it was her sweet sixteen, I wanted her to have a keepsake she could cherish for a long time so I decided to make a signature board for all of her friends and family to sign and write birthday notes on.  So let's get to it.

So I had this canvas that was leftover from a pack I had bought at AC Moore that I had been waiting to use but didn't have an idea for.  The problem was that it had a hole in it, so I wasn't really sure what to do with it.

Then along came washi tape.  I already had some that I had purchased from Target and AC Moore for some other things and it was the perfect solution to my hole problem.  A few strips of tape later and we had a pretty cute signature canvas.

We weren't quite done yet though.  I had found these cute cardboard cut-outs in the $1 bin at AC Moore and decided to use the "a" for this project.  

The gray wasn't quite right so a few coats of purple craft paint and we were in business.

A little hot glue and we were done, cute right?  Everyone at the party took turns writing little notes to Ashleigh.  We just used permanent writing pens and it worked perfectly.

Ok, so on to the next thing.  There were several plain flower type shapes remaining from the package so I decided to use those too.  I found some paint colors from my stash that matched our color theme and gave them a couple of coats each. 

Next, I cut out some circles from some leftover colored paper I had.  I just used a cup to trace the circles.

Then a little decorating, some glue and a few straws later I had these...

I used a container I already had, a little floral foam, some ribbon and leftover easter grass to put it all together.

And we had a cute little centerpiece for our food table.

We had a few leftover to use in other places too.

We had fun putting this all together.  I have a few more things to show you so check back later!

Don't forget we are starting our new series - Share Your Story next Wednesday!  

Happy Thursday!!

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